With the distant ocean as a backdrop, members of tribal communities from throughout New England gathered in Aquinnah this weekend for the 10th annual Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) powwow.

Around 75 people attended the celebration on Sunday, which included a formal invocation, the honoring of veterans (tribal and non-tribal) and food and crafts vendors from on and off-Island. Attendance was higher on Saturday for the opening ceremony.

Three drumming groups from the mainland – Eastern Suns, Alamoosic Lake and Young Bloods – took turns playing traditional songs and keeping the energy up throughout the weekend.

Powwow brought together many generations. — Timothy Johnson

Jason Baird of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe carried burning herbs and provided an invocation in both native language and English. He welcomed members from Osage, Chippewa, Narragansett, Pequot and other tribes. “When you are here with us, this is your territory too,” he said.

Chief Ryan Malonson of the Aquinnah tribe said the powwows originally were meant for children. “Children are our strength,” he said during the invocation, honoring their role in carrying the tribe’s traditions forward.

Several generations attended this year’s celebration, which was organized by historic preservation officer Bettina Washington and the tribe’s Human Service Department. Ms. Washington presented Bonnie Chalifoux and Kristina Hook-Leslie with small pouches as a token of gratitude for their efforts to raise money and help organize the powwow.

Tobias Vanderhoop, chairman of the Aquinnah tribe, wore traditional Wampanoag dress, including many colorful necklaces and a modest red and yellow headdress. He thanked the local drumming groups for being “the life, the heartbeat of our celebration,” and was grateful for the opportunity to “make good medicine.”

“We definitely have tribal representation from all of the New England tribes,” he said. “And then we have visitors from as far away as Oklahoma.” He said that all members of the Island’s tribal council and tribal committees had helped to organize the powwow.

The grassy space at Aquinnah Circle has long been a gathering place for the tribe. — Timothy Johnson

Throughout the afternoon, in the shade of a large white tent, tribal members danced around in circle, some carrying ceremonial axes, feathers or other objects. Many of the dances were open to all tribal nations and included a variety dance styles.

The traditional duck and dive dance, for example, involved dancers bending at the waist as if dodging cannonballs. The drum rhythm symbolized cannon fire, with a loud thump every few moments. Other dances included the women’s jingle dress and group dances with adults and kids.

Before organizing its first powwow about 10 years ago, the Aquinnah tribe would join the Mashpee tribe’s annual powwow on Cape Cod. Members from Aquinnah still participate in those events, which are much larger and take place in July. Many of the dancers, drummers and vendors this weekend were from the Mashpee tribe.

For the past several years, the Aquinnah powwow has coincided with windy, rainy weather, but this year the weather was warm and sunny. The grassy space within the Circle, which looks out over the open ocean, has long been a gathering place for the tribe. “You can’t ask for a better view,” Chief Malonson said on Sunday.

View more photos of the Island powwow.